WASHINGTON, DC, January 20, 2021 (ENS) – “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear,” President Joe Biden declared today in his Inaugural Address on the steps of the Capitol building after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Asserting that “democracy has prevailed” Biden swore his oath of office on a Bible that has been in his family for more than a century. It has been inscribed each time a family member has taken an oath of office and was inscribed again today.
Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the high court’s first Latina member.
In his inaugural address, Biden promised to hasten his work as President to meet the urgent needs of the American people and of the world.
“We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities,” he said, “much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.”
Former presidents: Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican George W. Bush, were at the Capitol to witness the peaceful transfer of power.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump declined to attend the inauguration and did not welcome the Bidens into the White House as is traditional, instead clinging to the fiction that he won the November 2020 election that he lost by over seven million votes, as certified by election officials in all 50 states. Trump’s last trip in Air Force One landed him and former first lady Melania in Florida Wednesday morning. Vice President Mike Pence attended to represent the Trump administration.
“Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we are in now,” Biden said in his inaugural speech. “A once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country. It has taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed.”
“A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer,” he acknowledged.
He then said, “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear.”
“And now a rise at political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat,” the President said of the violent insurrection at the Capitol exactly two weeks ago which left a Capitol police officer and four others dead.
The Capitol building was repaired for today’s inauguration ceremony. More than 125 people have been arrested so far on charges related to the insurrection on January 6. Charges range from curfew violations to federal felonies related to theft and weapons possession, the Associated Press reported.
To President Biden, these are all serious issues that cry out for leadership. “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul, and to secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity. Unity.”
“Folks, this is a time of testing,” said Biden, enumerating the tangle of issues before the country. “We face an attack on our democracy and untruth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways, but the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve had.”
At 78, the oldest person to assume the presidency, Biden is already considering the effect of his actions on the next generation.
“Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children?” he asked, then answered his own question. “I believe we must. I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will. And when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America, the American story.”
“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden declared. “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”
Executive Action on Day One
President Biden used his Inauguration Day to proclaim January 20, 2021, a National Day of Unity. In the proclamation, he called upon “the people of our Nation to join together and write the next story of our democracy – an American story of decency and dignity, of love and of healing, and of greatness and of goodness.”
From the Oval Office in the White House, Biden took “an oath to be a President for all Americans and ask every American to join me in this cause of democracy. May this be the story that unites us as fellow Americans and as the United States of America.”
Biden signed executive orders this evening that will reverse some of the environmental damage Trump has done, and the new President plans to take more executive action over the next week.
Tonight, Biden canceled the construction permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would have carried heavy crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Tonight, Biden brought the United States back into the Paris Agreement on climate change, reversing Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty in November.
Biden is also expected to bring the United States back into the World Health Organization, which Trump quit in July.
Biden also reversed Trump’s ban on travel from countries with mostly Muslim populations.
In the coming days, Biden will end construction of Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the president-elect’s transition team, by proclaiming the “immediate termination” of the national emergency declaration Trump employed to fund it. The wall would have disrupted ecosystems and menaced endangered species, environmentalists warned.
President Biden today announced the acting agency leadership across his new administration. Most appointees are career civil servants who will fill the top positions at federal government agencies while his Cabinet nominees move through the confirmation process in the Senate.
Confirmation hearings before Senate committees began for five of Biden’s Cabinet choices on Tuesday.
Nominees taking part in the hearings were: Janet Yellen, Biden’s pick to lead the Treasury Department; Avril Haines for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Alejandro Mayorkas for the Department of Homeland Security; Antony Blinken to head the State Department; and Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin for Secretary of Defense.
President Biden signed an order requiring facemasks to be worn and social distancing to be observed on all federal property. And, Biden asked for the resignation of Surgeon General Jerome Adams – two of his first steps in creating a more effective federal government response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 400,00 Americans to date.
Adams has been criticized for claiming that the flu was a greater risk than the coronavirus and later for comments about social distancing in communities of color.
In December, Biden announced that Vivek Murthy, MD, who served as surgeon general in the Obama-Biden Administration from 2014 to 2017, would again be asked to fill that position in his new administration.
Tonight, President Biden swore in more than 1,000 of his presidential appointees in a virtual event.
And finally, tonight Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff Ron Klain announced a “regulatory freeze pending review” by the new administration.
Under the freeze, government officials may not propose or issue any rules at all until a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on January 20, 2021, reviews and approves the rule. The only exceptions would be emergency situations or other urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, environmental, financial, or national security matters.
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